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How to resign: Our guide to handling the process professionally and painlessly

Resigning from a job isn’t something we do every day. In fact, most people will probably be able to count the number of times they resign during their career on just one hand! So it’s hardly surprising that many people are unsure how to go about it.

If you’ve made the decision to move on from your current role - whether it’s your first time or your first for a while - this article will help you to tackle the resignation process professionally and painlessly.

Take your time

You want this whole process to go as smoothly as possible, so it’s important that you don’t rush it. If you’re moving on to a new role, you do need to let your current firm know in a timely manner, but equally, you don’t want to go rushing in, resignation letter in hand.

Take a breath, and plan out what you intend to say, jotting your thoughts down on paper first if needs be.

Keep it positive

Spend some time thinking about your reasons for leaving and how you’ll communicate these. The key is to keep it professional and positive.

For example, you might let your manager know that you’re planning to take your career in a different direction, or that you’ve been offered a fantastic new opportunity that aligns with your aspirations and interests.

Avoid the temptation to make it negative. No matter what the circumstances, never point fingers, badmouth your current firm, or blame others for your decision.

Consulting is a small world, and it’s possible – even likely – that you’ll cross paths with your ex-colleagues again at some point in the future. Always avoid burning bridges. You never know when you might need them.

Resign in person

Without rushing the previous stage, it’s important to book a face-to-face meeting with your manager at the earliest opportunity. If location or logistics don’t allow for an in-person discussion, book a video call. Never hand in your resignation over the phone, or via email.

Remember, this is likely to be a surprise to your manager, so be prepared to answer questions about your reasons for leaving (luckily, you’ve already prepared for this!)

Offer to assist with the handover process and make it clear that you’ll do your best to help them move through this transition period. If you’re able to, you could also offer to help your firm find and train your replacement. Your efforts will be appreciated.

Put it in writing

You can either hand your resignation letter in at the same time as your meeting, or you can send it immediately afterwards. This doesn’t need to be War and Peace, but it should include important information such as the position you are resigning from and the date.

Close by thanking your firm for the opportunities they’ve given you and wish them the best for the future. Small gestures like these may not seem much, but they help to smooth the process and ensure a level of professionalism on both sides.

Prepare for a counter offer

As a valued consultant, your firm is likely to want to keep hold of you if possible. Counter offers usually match or exceed the salary you’ve been offered in your new role. Alternatively, your existing firm may offer you a change to your current role, in keeping with your career aspirations, or they may suggest welcome changes to your working conditions, such as part-time or remote working.

This can be flattering and tempting. But you need to consider whether this is something that will motivate you to stay for the long term. If you suspect you’ll be looking for another role again within 6 months, it’s better for everyone if you turn down the counter offer now.

Again, thinking about this ahead of time can help you make an informed decision on whether to stay or continue with your resignation.

If the counter offer does make a big difference to your final decision, ask for some time to consider it properly, and don’t feel pressured to answer on the spot.

Gardening leave

Some firms will require you to go on a period of gardening leave rather than working your notice period. This commonly occurs when you are moving to a competitor, or if you work on particularly sensitive projects.

However, most firms will need you to work your notice period. It’s all too easy to switch off during this period, as your mind is naturally moving on to the next chapter. However, do try to remain attentive, put in the effort and support your colleagues until your last day.

Leave on a high

Speaking of last days, before you depart for the last time, be sure to thank your team and your colleagues for their support, and for the opportunity to work with them. Express your appreciation for the skills and knowledge you've gained and wish them well in the future.

Leave your contact details with your line manager in case they need to query anything in the weeks following your departure.

Oh and last but not least - boxes of doughnuts and after work leaving drinks are both optional but thoroughly enjoyable ways to say goodbye!

Resigning from a job can be a daunting task, but by following these steps, you can make the process as positive and professional as possible.

At Ascent Professional Services, our job doesn’t stop when we’ve found you a new role. We’ve got many years of experience in guiding our candidates through the whole hiring process - including both pre and post job acceptance. Just get in touch with the team to discuss your requirements. You can also take a look at our latest consulting jobs

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